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A NORTH CAROLINA WOMAN'S EXPERIENCE IN THE CIVIL WAR
Miss Emma L. Rankin
Digitized by the Internet Archive
This story of rt Stoneman » s haid was written by my mother's first
cousin, Miss Emma L. Rankin. She with her sister, Miss Sarah T. Kankin
oonduoted a private school for girls following the Civil War. It was
at the request of the school girls that this story was written In 1885.
After Cousin Soma's death her brother-in-law, Major George Washington
Einley Harper compiled a small volume of biography written by friends
and relatives, and it was requested that Cousin Emma's 3tory of her war
experiences be included.
Explanation of some of the expressions used, that younger
generations might find puzzling:
Spring house - A small house built a few feet below (down stream!
from a spring, and covering the spring branch, and in which crocks
and earthenware jars of milk, butter, and other perishables were
kept. The crocks and jars were set in the running water and this
kept the contents delightfully cool, even on hot days. In those
days there were no electric refrigeraters and no ice boxes.
Still house - A plant for di still ing liquors , always built on the
banks of a 3tream because of the availability of water, and instead
of saying "distilling house". It was shortened to "still house", and
when people spoke of "stilling", they, of course meant the distilling
of liquors, brandies, etc.
Fences around fields - In those days livestock roamed free and farmers
had to fence in growing crops to protect them from roaming cattle, hogs,
horses, and other animals.
Aunt Lucindy's "chist" (chest). An oblong wooden box with
hinged wooden lid and used as a trunk.
The volume of biography is not now in print, and Cousin Emma's
nepnew, Jean Edward L. Cloyd, of the North Carolina State
*™> ii e ? 9 Tffl£fl£i t3r Waa 8 ° od Qnou S n to lend me hie co-oy of the
book so that SM&fc a coov of this most. t.tM^ii.. *ZZZl*iZ- 9
a copy of this most interesting narrative.
From Vol. II, "History of North Carolina" by Samuel A'Court Ashe
P. 993 "The President (Jefferson Davis), in addition to the general out-
look of catastrophe that oppressed him, was particularly disturbed
at the eruption of columns of Federal cavalry that here and there
were burning the bridges of railroads, alike to the north and south
of Greensboro. Such was the situation when the presidential train
arrived in Greensboro on the 11th (April I865) , narrowly escaping
capture by a detachment of Stoneman's oavalry. ■
The condition of the Confederate forces was such that ueneral
Grant, in command of strong columns of troops at many points, could
move them at pleasure as men on a chess board. In Merch h© directed
General Stoneman in East Tennessee, with a heavy body of oavalry
to raid the railroads in Virginia and North Carolina. On March 20th
Stoneman moved on this mission with some 6,000 men, expecting to
reach Lynchburg. He reached Boone on the 26th of March and, dividing
his force, sent a column under General Gilliam to Blowing Rock and
Patterson, marching himself to V/ilkesboro, where Gilliam rejoined
him. Destruction and devastation marked their course. Colonel
Kirke, following in their path to Boone, finishing that work. Kirk
with two regiments took position at Blowing Kock, where he sent
out marauding parties to harry the people.
Pt995 " rr herever the Federal detachments went they left a trail as
of a noisome pestilence, of heart-burning, and a sense of outrage
and barbarous treatment. On the evening of the 13th Stoneman moved
off toward Statesville, carrying some 700 persons, among them being
Colonel otone, of the 20 th Mississippi, and Major A.C. Avery, who
were eventually delivered to Colonel Kirk . Stoneman now
again divided his force. One column under General Gilliam moved
by Seattle's Ford to Lincolnton, heading for Charlotte, while Stone-
man with the other proceeded to Lenoir, where he remained until the
17th. He then dispatched a column under General Palmer through
Morgan ton to Swannanoa Gap. Bear Morgan ton this column was combated
by Col. v/alton with the Home Guard and Capt. Twitty's Co. of Avery's
Bn. , but without avail. Gen. Stoneman with the remainder of his
command then proceeded to Tennessee through V/atauga County."
# P. 1113 1870 George W. Kirk, the notorious Tennessee bushwhacker,
during the Civil War, was appointed colonel (by Gov Holden) of
the 2nd N.C. State Troops." P. 1114 "Kirk' was notorious
as a desperate, merciless, criminal, violent, cruel man; a plun-
• derer, guilty of many outrageous deeds and murders."
The sketch of her thrilling war experience was written
in 1885 at the request of "her girls", and was not intended at
the time for publication. It was published ten years later in
The Charlotte Observer and copied in The Lenoir News.
It is given by request in this memorial as an example
of the faith, courage, and self-reliance of a good woman under
mo.st trying conditions.
The "Pleasant Gardens", a section embracing a number
of fine plantations on the Catawba River in McDowell County,
North Carolina, was so named and occupied and cultivated before
the American Revolution.
Major Ferguson, with his little army, raided this sec-
tion in an attempt to capture Col. McDowell only three weeks
before the battle of King's Mountain. *
lieutenant Allaire, of that corps, in his diary says,
as recorded In Draper's "King's Mountain and Its Heroes":
"Saturday, September 15, 1780. Pleasant ci-ardens is
a very handsome place. I was surprised to see so beautiful
tract of land in the mountains. This settlement is composed
of the most violent Rebels I ever saw, particularly, the
"Sunday, bepte^ber 17. Marched two miles to Buck Creek,
forded it and continued two miles further to a Rebel, Major
Davidson's plantation and halted."
Here may be found the ancestral homes of the Erwins,
Carsons, Creenlees, Burgins, and other prominent families.
(A North Carolina ..oman's Experience in the Civil *.ar.)
Miss Tinma L. Rankin
The winter of I863 found the writer employed, as a school iaa'am in
a family school, in an old-fashioned farm house at Pleasant Gardens, in
McDowell County, North Carolina.
It was a huge old house, with long, wide porches, the original
building constructed of logs twelve inches square, sometime in the begin-
ning of this century, or the latter part of the last, from* time to time
additions had been made to the main building, numerous offices had been
built, and it had been for years a summer resort, well known to seekers
of health and pleasure from eastern Carolina.
Pleasure seekers were few at this troublous time, but one or two
refugees, two or three school girls, the family, consisting of Colonel
Logan Carson, his wife and two little girls and myself occupied the wide
old house. Besides it was, and has been for many years, one of the
stopping places on the old stage line between Morganton and Asheville,
and every morning the stage got in before daylight, bringing a load of
passengers, generally soldiers, who waited for breakfast, and gave us
the latest news. Our postoffice, Marion, being four miles distant, mails
were not received till 11 o'clock. In exciting Junctures, you could hear
anything from the "reliable gentleman" who was generally at this breakfast
table, so that our hopes and fears were often aroused, to be dashed or
quieted when the mail arrived. Far removed from the seat of war, our
only contact with the outer world was at this breakfast table.
Up to the winter of 1864-*65 our experience of the trials of the
war was confined to the anxiety about friends in the army, and the priva-
tions whion were lightly esteemed and oheerfully borne, hoping always
for a joyful end. True, we were far from blockade goods, but what cared
wei Factory cloth, which our negroes used to wear, bought at a great
price, and warranted to last "until six months after a treaty of peace"
made most valuable underwear, and our homespun dresses, dyed in soft,
dark colors by our native barks and roots, with a thread of real indigo
or madder, and made and fitted with as much care as would have been
bestowed on handsome material in former times, looked, as we imagined,
The getting up of a bonnet was a difficult undertaking, as "sky-
scrapers" were in the fashion when the war commenced, and continued in
vogue with us till it closed, and it took no little to cover one of
these aspiring frames, but I had from various ancient receptacles, gath-
ered together silk, flowers, and above all, plumes, real ostrloh plumes,
all to match. The plumes covered a deficiency in the silk and underneath
was a piece of pasteboard, which supplied a deficiency in the frame, so
the plumes were absolutely essential to the recherche effect of the gr,and
combination. — But one fatal Sunday, feeling unusually frisky when
leaving the church, I proposed to one of the children to take my place
in the carriage and let me ride the pony, accompanied by mine host, who
always went on horseback. I only added the long riding skirt to ray
ohuroh oostume and mounted for a four-mile ride.
It was a clear, bright day in winter, with a stiff breeze blowing,
and I soon found that I carried too- much topsail, but managing, though
with some difficulty, to keep my "sky-soraper" on, I sailed in trium-
phantly, meeting the carriage, which had come by another road, at the
gate. The first remark of one of the children was: "0, Miss ilankin,
what is the matter with your bonnet?" I put up my hand - the plume
was gone - and the pasteboard was bare. I walked on to my room, took
the bonnet off, looked at the sore place for the space of a minute,
calmly took in the whole situation, and gave it up. I had forded both
the river and the creeks, and the plume was probably carried off by
the fresh breeze in its clear sweep down the river. So search was
useless, and I laid the bonnet down, "Slowly and tenderly, fashioned
so meagerly, so old, and so bare", and closely inspecting my second
best hat, resolved to promote it to a higher position.
About a week afterwards, the children raiseu a great outcry, "0,
-iss Rankin, your bonnet is found." I ran down to meet the coming
procession and found them carrying aloft the plume, looking like an
old rooster on a rainy day. A cursory glance showed that it was past
recovery and "off duty forever."
However, more serious troubles were ahead of us. The invading
army in a constantly narrowing circle approacned us. We had thought
it highly improbable that a blue-coat would ever be seen in our
secluded region, but rumors of raids and marauders came thick and fast
during the last winter of the war. Kirk's men*(see explanation, * T .C,3,)
were plundering in the counties adjoining us, and had come down within
ten, and even five miles of us. «e began to hide out our clothes and
to arrange our valuables when we retired as to best protect them in
case of a dash in the night.
In the early spring of 1865 it was confidently reported that the
Yankees were coming both from the east and the west. One morning a gen-
tleman well known to Col. Carson, came by from Asheville and said we
might certainly expect them that day or the next, that he heard, when
only a few miles from Asheville that they had aotually reached that
point and we might "look out".
The day was passed in anxious suspense, and we looked up the road
many times. It was Friday evening, and one of the school girls who
lived in Marion was going home. A saddled horse stood at the gate, and
a little negro boy, who had brought it for her, sat on a mule close by.
Just then a cr5 r came that the Yankees were coming. I flew to an upper
porch where I could best see the Asheville road,, and there, sure enough,
was a oolumn of mounted soldiers winding slowly around the high hill
that shut out the road from our view, at a distance something lass than
a quarter of a mile.
On reporting this a general stampede commenced. The master of
the house was rushed off through the baok door, his wife entreating him
to leave her and fly. Every darkey on the place - about fifty in num-
ber - placed their backs to the foe and pressed forward.
A beautiful oreek flowed through the yard, along the banks of which
was a road leading off at a right angle from the Asheville road. Down
this road ran men, women and children — helter-skelter, pell-mell, some
with a horse or mule that they had been able to seize at the moment, but
more on foot. The little girl, anxious to reach home, had mounted in hot
haste and was clattering across the creek at 2:40 speed, followed by her
muleterian escort* Before she had gone a hundred yards, the girth broke,
and down came lady, saddle and all. A negro man, rushing ahead of her
caught the horse, and she, rising to her feet, nothing hurt, screamed,
"Put me on, Uncle Davis, please put me on." And this time, either for
greater security, the saddle bing lost, or by acoident, she took a posi-
tion in which she could have used both stirrups if there had been any,
and so, with bonnet off, hair flying, across the river, anound and over
the. hills, in less than half an hour she made the four miles, and dashed
into Marion and up to the male academy, where her brothers were, scream-
ing at the extent of her voice, "Four thousand Yankees at Uncle Logan's!
Four thousand Yankees st Uncle Logan's J", a cry that she kept up down
the village street till she reached her home.
In the meantime, Mrs. Carson and I, with three children stood on
the porch with hearts in our throats, awaiting the dreaded approach. of
the Yankees, who looked much less formidable near at hand than far away.
They made no stop, but went slowly riding by, a company of some 50 or 60
men, some with Confederate uniforms and some with no uniform at all.
When they had nearly all passed I turned and broke out into a laugh and
cried out, "Are we going to let these men pass without finding out who
they are? Let us run and speak to them." Go the older girl and I ran
to the gate, and found on halting the troop, that it was a company of
Vaughn's men - some of our own precious cavalry, who for some months had
been roaming round in our mountain fastness, seeking what they might
devour, and now had unwittingly caused this panic. When the situation
was explained they were much amused, and rode on with the inclination
it seems, to humor the joke. The first person they met happened to be
the very man who had come from Asheville in the morning and brought the
first report. On his return from Marion he had met the little girl, and
though hearing her aoreaming report, had determined to go a little nearer
and see for himself; but meeting this cavalcade, he wheeled his horse,
and as he did so, some of the boys for fun, fired their pistols, which,
he, of course, thought aimed at him. He galloped back, arriving in Marion
shortly after the school girl, confirming'; her report, and adding that the
"Yankees" were just behind and had fired on him. The result was that by
the time these men rode quietly into the village the whole male population
had gone, without "standing on the order of their going". A recruiting
officer who had been there for some months never stopped till he reached
Rutherfordton, twenty-eight miles distant, where of course, he told the
tale as "'twas told to him".
But there came a day when "wolf was cried in earnest. About the
middle of April, I went on Friday evening to spend Saturday with a friend,
two miles off, across the river.
Sunday morning, before daylight, I awoke to find one of the ladies of
the family standing by my bed with a candle in one hand, and an open let-
ter in the other. I shall never forget the ghostly picture. The tall
figure with face as pallid as the night dress she wore, the dim blue light,
and the whole, foreshadowing of evil. The letter was sent by special mes-
aenger from Statesville, and Informed us that Stoneman's raiders,
which had dashed in out of the State, some weeks before, had appeared
at Salisbury, released their prisoners, captured our forces there, and
were en route for Tennessee, probably via ^sheyille. It is impossible
to realize now the dread terror with which we received these tidings.
All the horrors, of which we had heard from others, were about to burst
upon us, and I was away from home. Oh, how I longed to be there I But
to reach my home I would have to go meeting the raiders, and no one
would take me and run the risk of being captured, both man and horse.
I could only be still and wait and trust. We went to church and our
blessed old pastor cave us all the hope and strength he could gather
from the Bit.le, reminding us that there were lions in the way, but
God could shut the lions* mouths. The scenes of the week brought
up his words with great force. I went back to Ool. Carson's from
church, and in the morning a scene of active preparation common oed —
the biggest burying I ever attended.
Huge excavations were made — one I remember large enough
to hold a piano box, which was filled with hams and buried in an old
house near where the sorghum had been made the fall before, and the
litter was spread over it to hide the fresh earth.
I blistered my hands burying a box of Confederate money.
It was only a foot long and about half as wide and deep, but I thought
I would never get the hole deep enough, and I chose a soft plaoe, too.
It was Col. Carson's money.
About that time I began to think I had more clothes than
I knew what to do with, though my wardrobe would have been a show in
these times. Large quantities of clothing, including my most valuable
trunk, were sent to a cabin a mile or two off the road, so poor-looking
that we thought it would offer no temptation to search, and so it
proved, for we saved everything that was there.
To me, it seemed idle to secrete, wben every servant on the
plantation knew where everything was hid - in fact, did most of the
hiding, but to their honor, be it said, not a single disclosure was
made to their "friends'' and our foes.
Tuesday morning the horses and mules and cows were driven
off up the creek, and hid out in the bushes a few miles from' the road
and then we sat doi n in dreadful expectation to wait.
About noon a small squad of men passed, sent by General
Martin to reconnoitre. General Martin, commanding our forces at Ashe-
ville at that time, had come over with his small force to the top of
the Blue Ridge to offer what resistance he might. In a very short
time they came galloping back saying the Yankees were just across the-
river. The time had now come when all who had determined to abandon
the post, must leave. Mrs. Carson urged her husband to hide out in
the mountains, as he could be no protection to his family, and it
would be a relief to her to have him out of the way. So off he went,
and most of the darkeys disappeared, leaving ..Irs. Carson with her two
little daughters and myself standing in the front door watching our
skirmishers, who were stationed at the front gate and told us they
would fire at the Yankee videttes from that point.
The approaching troops were now heard, but Instead of ooming up
the direct road, they were on the road up the creek that passed the
end of the house and came into the main road at the ri^'ht angle. As the
house was in this angle we saw in a moment that we would be right in the
line if there should be any firing, but just tnen our captain lifted his
cap and callad to us that he had concluded not to fire from that place,
lest the enemy should burn the house. As they wheeled and galloped off
the Yankees caught sight of them and dashed after, firing on them, our
men firing back. We were dreadfully afraid that they would capture our
boys, but they did not, nor touch one of them. It was said that one of
the raiders was killed, but I cannot vouch for the truth of this.
It was stated afterwards in some newspapers that this was the last
skirmish of the war. If so, it was a remarkable coincidence of dates,
for it was the 19th of April - exactly four years from the day on which
the first conflict occurred in the Confederate ?/ar, and also the anniver-
sary of the day on which the first blood was shed in the Revolutionary
By the time this little skirmish was over the horrid blue coats
were swarming in and through and around the house. We stood in the front
door, hoping to keep them out, but when we looked back, they were pouring
in the back door, and every other door and window. They rushed past us
and up the stairs, and In every room. Every office and out house seemed
to be full of them, and still they came. It seamed to us that there were
about a million of them, but I suppose there were only a few hundred in the
yard. An impudent lieutenant demanded of me where the horses were secreted.
He hooted at my reply that the negroes had taken them off and hid them*
He asserted that he was a Southerner — a Kentuckian, and knew as much about
negroes as I did, and that was"a likely story"whioh I was telling. I told
him that if he was a Iventuokian, he ought to be ashamed of being in that
band of marauders, /.fter some more insolence, he departed in search of
the horses, saying, "Be sure, Miss, we will find them; Yunkees never fail
In the meantime, Mrs. Carson and I took seats in the porch and
waited an hour or two, until the road and the house began to thin out, and
hoping that they had all passed, we began to reconnoitre. The pantry was
as bare as old Mother Hubbard's cupboard. Llost of the meat had been taken
out of the smoke-house, and what was left was thrown down on the floor
and a barrel of vinegar poured over it and then covered with dust and ashes.
It was some consolation that the next set that came along, took this same
meat and ate it.
The spring-house was as bare as the pantry, afctd as far as we could
see, nothing was left to eat. Some old turkeys which were sitting had
their heads cut off, but were still "a-setting" In headless dignity on
Another squad of regular plunderers now came into the yard, and we
resumed our 3tand In the front porch. They demanded clothes, provisions,
etc, and threatened, if not supplied, to sack the house. Y/e told them
to "sack away"; that their own people had been there, and they would not
be apt to find muoh left. They started on their rounds, but soon returned
for the keys. It was then discovered that the keys had been carried off
by the first set ( a good many of the keys were found weeks later, soattered
over a wheat field near the house). They pretended not to believe this,
and declared, with very rough language that they would open the doors
anyway. ?A few of them had been left locKed.) V.'e soon heard them
splitting out the panels with an axe, but finding little or nothing,
they soon rode on, cursing the house and its inmates as they went.
Night was now drawing on, and to heighten its horrors, a dark
thunder cloud was rising in the. west, and'^we 7 went to Mrs. Carson's room
to try to arrange for the night, we found that we had no light. The
candles were in the press with heavy oaken doors; the keys were gone,
and we had not skill nor strength to break the locks or split the doors.
The very idea of being left in darkness, and those wretches so near us!
Just then some of the negroes oame peering around, and one of
them told us that Col. Carson had been taken prisoner, but was paroled
(he was over 60 years old), and had sent him down to see if Mrs. Carson
was willing for him to come home and stay that night. She was not will-
ing, for she thought both he and we were safer if he was absent, so
she sent him word to remain where he was. f
There was a large pile of new shingles at the back door with
which to re-cover the house. "We carried in enough of these to keep a^i
light all ni^ht, built up a fire and sat down, after bolting and barr^J
cading the door as best we could.
The room was in desolate confusion, the beds thrown down on the
floor, bureau drawers out and pulled to pieces, and darkness and dis-
comfort all around. \*!e had no supper end wanted none. The children
went to sleep, but Mrs. Carson and I kept watoh. We afterwards learned
that there was a camp on each side of us, but the rain fell in torrents,
and there was little passing, and no stopping, until the morning light,
for which we were most truly thankful.
Aunt Hannah, the negro cook, came early in the morning to say
that she had some breakfast for us, but "'lowed it was not worth while
to bring it up here. Some of 'em would be comin' along and snatchin'
it." So we marched off to her cabin, where she had set a table as
neatly as she could, and prepared for us a turkey, cut up and stewed,
saving part uncooked for future meals, scrambled eggs, bread and butter
and rye coffee. 7rom the same hospitable cubin we got all our meals
for the next five days, the negroes catering for us, and using their
own rations, which had been given to them for the week, only the day
before, and which the Yankees did not take.
Col Carson came in and informed me that the raiders had come
through Lenoir, where my home was, and now my troubles were increased
ten-fold by anxiety about my dear ones there.
A clear, beautiful morning followed the rain, and as ife&^hsos*
the house was too forlorn to oooupy, we took possession of the front
Vary soon another regiment that had camped below, commeuoed
passing. Fewer stragglers came in this morning, and they, finding
nothing, remained but a short time. The gate was open, and a mounted
soldier, turned from the column, and galloped up to the very door,
and said, "I would like to see Miss Rankin. Is she here?" If His
Satanic Majesty had called for me, I eould scarcely have been more
astonished, but I stepped to the edge of the porch and announced that
I was Miss Rankin. "I guarded your father's house when in Lenoir'',
said he, "and here is a letter which I promised to deliver to you."
I seized the letter hut turned with eager inquiries to the man: "How
long were you in Lenoir? What did you do there?" "Oh, Lenoir was
not injured by us at all; we stopped there one day with our prisoners
but no houses were burned." I knew then that they had eaten up the
meagre supplies which the village afforded, if nothing more. I thanked
him as he rode away, and then turned to the letter. 0, how glad I was
to get that letter, and to hear that my folks had come off so lightly
in the sore visitation.
About this time a young lieutenant rode in, bowed politely, and
asked for a drink of water. He looked more like a gentleman than any
of them I had seen, and I made bold to tell hira how his men had been
behaving and asKed him if he could not stay and guard us while a negro
regiment that was just' coming in sight was passing. He politely acceded
to my request,- and ordered a big, black negro in an officer's uniform,
who was just going into the baok door, back to the lines. Oh, how
horrid those negroes looked in that blue uniform, and how the air was
filled with oaths! But that was characteristic of their white comrades
also, (Did our army fill the air with blasphemy as they marched along?)
How ' thankful we were to have protection, even for this hour.
The. officer guarding was Lieutenant Lavio, a Kentuckian. He
told me that he had been reared by a good father and mother and that he
was heartily ashamed of being in such a command — that his cheeks had
tingled at the outrages they had committed ever since they started from
Tennessee. I told him I thought he had good reason to be ashamed. He
said that the stragglers who followed the raid and belonged to no command
were the worst, and that as the regiment just passed was the last, we
would probably be more annoyed than we had been before, but he was the
officer of the day, and if stragglers should oome in, to say that he
had just lex't, and threaten them with hixa„ Regretting that he must
leave us so unprotected, but compelled, he said, by his duty, he now
Col. Carson had been about the house all morning, continually
urged by his wife to hide out again, but reluctant to leave. Scarcely
had lieutenant uavis gone before we saw half a dozen men dashing up
the creek, whooping and yelling and cursing, and as drunk as they
could be. There was a still house half a mile down the creek, and
straight from it they came.
Col. Carson was in the parlor and there was no time to get
out, unseen. Itfs« Carson entreated him to remain quietly seated on
the sofa, which was on the same side with the door, which opened on
the front porch, and in the doorway we stood to keep him from being
seen. The wretches left their horses at the gate, fairly ran up the
walk, and two of them rushed up to Mrs. Carson and with cocked pistols
nearly touched our breasts, demanded all the watches and jewelry in
the house. Colonel and J'rs. Carson had hid their watches but mine
was conoealed on my person. I had no idea of giving it up. I knew
they were only threatening, and did not suppose they intended to shoot
us, but in their tremulous, drunken hands, I knew there was great dan-
ger -of the pistols firing.
We threatened to report them to the officer of the day, who, we
told them, was near at hand, but they cursed him and all other offioers,
and said they belonged to no command and feared nobody. Still, we
stood there, determined to keep them from seeing into the room. Irs.
Carson was an invalid, and with extreme terror for her husband, who
was so near her, and yet so powerless to protect her, I feared she
would faint, but she did not. We stood our ground and they stood
theirs, holding their pistols pointed close to us, and making horrid
threats of what they would do if we did not disclose the hiding place
of various hidden treasures, but especially of the watches, which they
decxared they would have - every one of them, and moreover, that they,
knew exaetly how many there were in the house.
Two more of the gang now called out that they were going to burn
the house, and placing some straw and other light material on the floor
of the porch, they put a matoh to it, and up it blazed. Vie thought our
time had come now, sure enough, but there was nothing to do but escape
ourselves, and there was time enough for that;, so we just stood still,
and to our. surprise they knocked out the fire themselves before the
floor had fairly oaughto Some of them in the meantime had been looking
about the house, and finding it so bare, came out saying, "Gome along
boys and let the women alone; there's nothing to be got here." and so
As soon as they were out of sight, Mrs. Carson turned to her hus-
band and said, "Now go, and I beseech you not to come back again while
these dreadful creatures are about. You see you can be no protection
to me, and I am a thousand times more afraid when you are here. They
threaten to kill us, but they would kill you." So he went, but he did
For several hours we now sat in solemn stillness. There was no
passing, end we began to hope that it was all over, and that we had
seen the last of them, but it was a vain wish,
A captain with 50 men now came over with a flag of truoe from
General Palmer to General Gilliam. Palmer had turned off at Morganton,
going across by Hickory Nut Gap, while Gilliam was attempting to cross
at the Swannanoa Gap, He came in and ordered supper to be served for
his men in half an hour. Mrs. Carson told him there was nothing to cook,
and she had no one to cook it if there was. "Cook it yourselves", said
he, with the most impudent tone and manner. "I Intend to have supper,
and if you don't get it for us, I will turn my men loose in the house."
That was not a very serious threat, considering the condition of the house
after his people had been loose in it a day or two. We gave them to
understand that we neither could, nor would cook for him, and in marched
his men. We heard them setting the table in the dining room and making
a great clatter, and wondered what they were doing. So far as we knew
there was not a thing to eat in the house. After an hour or more, they
filed out, and the oaptain, after stopping for another insolent word
with us, rode on.
We then ventured into the house to see what they had been doing.
At the dining room door we stopped and laughed. A long table was set
out covered with the remnants of a feast that seemed to have been composed
of corn batter cakes and sorghum. We raised our skirts and tipped
across to the kitchen, where the same scene of dirt and confusion met
our eyes. Mrs. Carson then remembered that she had a bag of meal and
a keg of sorghum thrown up above a half-open ceiling in a narrow entrance
leading to the kitchen, and this, overlooked by the others, they had found.
We made no attempt to clean up, and the house remained in the
condition the;^ had left it, for days. Night was now at hand and we began
to dread going into the house. It seemed safer in the open air, We, two
lone women, and two little girls, felt so awfully desolate and forsaken
in that great bare house in darkness. We hoped, however, that the last
enemy was far on his way, and we would see no more of them till the Judg-
Just at dusk, however, here came a long column marching back.
General Martin had come from Asheville to the top of the Blue Ridge, and so
obstructed the narrow mountain road, by felling trees and throwing in
large stones, that, as one of the Yankees told me, "it would take a month
to clean out the road," So they were all returning and would "go around
by Hickory Nut Gap". Just to think of having all that army pass us again!
Colonel Carson now came in and said that a regiment would camp
out before the door, and the colonel — Howard, I think was his name -
would make his headquarters in the house, I stepped out into the porch
which was filling with men, inquired for the officer of the day, and,
in the fading twilight, recognized the man who presented himself as Lieu-
tenant Davis, our friend of the morning. Informing him that Mrs, Carson
was sick and ready to give up with fatigue, I begged him to put a guard
at the door of our room. He brought up his colonel, introduced him, who
expressed great regret at the treatment we had received, promised all we
asked, and bowed himself off, Supperless, we bolted ourselves in, fixed
up the beds and went to sleep and slept all night. Colonel Carson called
to us to look at the' camp fires, but we did not care to see them, I am
surprised that he thought they looked pretty, as they were built up of
rails, leaving exposed his growing fields.
The next morning our polite colonel started on an early march.
On one side of the road was a broad field of wheat,. now the latter part
of April, giving promise of abundant harvest, A halt was made, which
for a moment we did not understand, but the explanation came soon enough.
The fenoe was torn down, and over and over the growing wheat that cavalry
galloped in wanton destruction. This was after the war was over, Lee
having surrendered, though the raiders would not believe it. A flag of
truce had been sent from General Palmer to these men onlv the evening
before, so this piece of maliciousness was purely gratuitous.
This was only a repetition of the day before. One man wanted
•hirts for the hospital. Col. Carson told him he cound not find one in
the house, he was sure. "Well, sir," pointing his pistol at him, "give
me the one you have on." He went in the house and took it off and was
left with only his flannel underwear, and the man rode off with his shirt.
One party found an old rifle and a musket, and with great furore,
broke stock and lock, and dashed them over the terrace into the creek.
Never shall I forget the horrid clangor of those great cavalry spurs and
sabres as they dragged over the bare floors of those long passages and
porches. Mrs. Carson was still sick so we could not remain out doors.
Without ceremony, they rushed in and out of her room, a kick at the door
was the only way in which they asked permission to enter. u e left the
doors open after a time, to avoid this.
Once a mere boy with a red head and a redder face - hot from
the bottomless pit, he looked - ran in as if pursued, jerked open drawers,
banged the closet doors, and at last reached up on the high, old-fashioned
mantel, pulled open the old clock door, and down it came with a bang on
his head, the weights falling out and the \vhole thing coming down with a
crash on the floor. All this time he had seemed never to notice that the
room was occupied; but just then his pursuer appeared with a raised sabre,
and out of the back door, one after the other, over the banisters of a
high poroh, away they went, and we saw them no more.
V.'e had missed our breakfast that morning, for just as we entered
Aunt Hannah's door, two or three blue-coats ran out with the breakfast in
their hands. It was a little tantalizing, but we had not much appetite,
and I don't think we were as much disturbed as Aunt Hannah was over it.
Another night now came on with all the terrors of darkness. I
felt comparatively strong during the day, tho* the utter helplessness of
two weak women and children made my heart faint at night.
We were entirely alone. ..fter the encounter about the shirt,
Col* Carson again left, having promised his wife not to return till the
Yankees were all gone.
We fastened the doors of our rooms as securely as possible, deter-
mined not to open them to any comers, but knowing well how easily they
could be forced open, we could only hope and pray that none would come
during the night. Whenever we heard horses' hooves our hearts would rise
up in our throats, but when we heard the splash in the creek, we knew they
had passed for that time, and thanked G-od for that.
Sometime after midnight we heard a halt. In breathless terror
we listened to the sound of spur and sabre and heavy tramp, up the walk,
through the passage, down the long porch of the ell in which was our room,
and straight to our door, where the sound stopped, with a kick on the
door. Not a word could we utter. A rough voice cried, "Open the door.
We want a light to go to the barn." Ho answer. "Open the door, or we'll
break it down", was howled with an oath from the other side. Mrs. Carson
then spoke, "I have but one piece of candle" (she had found this in one
of the rooms), "and I cannot give it to you." "Give us a piece of it",
they cried. I have no knife to cut it", said she. "Open the door and
we'll give you one." She hesitated. After a moment she said, "If you'll
promise not to come in, I'll open the door wide enough to get the knife,
and give you a piece of the candle." They promised. I did not trust to
"honor among thieves", and expected them to push in, but she opened a
erack in the door, got the knife, gave them the candle, and off they went.
Just after daylight, the same rough voice was heard at the door.
"Open this door, I tell you', or I'll break it open", and heavy kicks fol-
lowed, under which the door threatened to give way every moment, we now
concluded to open the door. A man, rather old, with the most frightful
countenance I think I ever saw, pushed in. I think I should know that
face after all these years.
He came pretty near where I was standing, and immediately spied
an insignificant breastpin wiiioh I wore habitually, and had not thought
of concealing. "Cive me that pin", he insolently demanded. "No. You
cannot have it", I said. "If you don't take It off, I'll take it off for
you", he replied. "No, you will not dare touch me", I said. I moved
back toward the fireplace, where there was a large iron shovel, keeping
my eyes fixed steadily upon him as he slowly moved after me. I determined,
if he attempted to touch me, to seize the shovel, and do the best I could
• « ,
with it. I never took my eyes off him, but did not allow him to shorten
the distance between us, and as he moved after me, I moved back, till we
had gone half way around the room. I persistently refused to let him
have the pin, and to all his horrid threats told liim he dare not touch ma.
"jare not", he said, "I fear not Gor or man." "I fear God", said I,
"and you cannot harm me." After many minutes, as it seemed to me, he
moved off, leaving me weak-kneed, and ready . enough to drop into the
nearest seat, a few days before, a lady in Lenoir had been knocked down
and robbed of her watoh by one of this same gang of marauders, and I
know of no eartly reason why this wretch should have desisted, but just
at that hour, as I afterwards learned, my dear father was on his knees,
imploring the protection of God on his absent child, amid the dangers
by which she was surrounded.
The day passed in comparative quiet, only a few stragglers,
and they employing themselves in digging around for buried valuables, but
not one tiling did they get. It was found that they had dug within six
inches of the box of hams, and still failed to find it.
The horses had been found on the second day, and the
children's pony was paraded up and down at the front door before their
tearful eyes before they carried them off.
Toward evening quiet settled upon us. Wo raiders had passed for ho
hours and we were beginning to breathe freely as we sat in the soft April
sunlight, which seemed to be the only thing that vile man could not mar.
Down the road from Morganton at last rode two men. They might be friends,
but for fear they might be foes, we retired to the back of the house, and
shut the door. In a little while we heard a knock at the front entrance.
w 0, Mrs. Carson',', I cried, "that's no Yankee I They come in with a kick,
and never with a knock." I flew to the door, and there stood a Major in
the lovely Confederate uniform. It seemed to me months since I had seen
a friend, and I thought he was the handsomest man I had ever seen. He
introduced himself as Major Herndon, from Asheville (I learned later, a
brother-in-law of Governor Vance), and I seized the hand which he offered, '
with both mine, and came near kissing him.
Mrs. Carson now came forward, recognized him and begged him
to stay all night. He said he wanted to stop, but his servant at the
gate was in charge of two fine horses which he was anxious to get home"
without encountering any Yankees. V/e told him none had passed since
noon and we thought the horses could be sent to a place of safety. Iff
walked to the gate with him, and while we were consulting about the best
disposition to make of the horses, one of the negroes oame running around
the corner, crying^ "Run, Massa, run, for G-od's sake, runj They's a-aomin*
from the still house, just as drunk as they can be!" One leap to his.
horse's back, and with "Good-bye, ladies, I am sorry to leave you", he
Back we ran to Mrs. Carson's room, and shut the door, but
from the window we could see and hear the drunken crowd whooping and
cursing. In a moment they rushed in, and were standing before us with
pistols presented, crying, "Meat. Give us meat, or we'll shoot you."
Mrs. Carson told them they might have all they could find, but there
was none there. Finding we were not to be intimidated by pistols and
oatha, they left us and after a fruitless sear oh In the smoke house,
they rode off. If I remember aright, these were the last of the raiders
that we saw, tut it was days before we felt secure.
Time and space fail me to relate the result the inventory
taken soon after, but I will say that old" Aunt Lucindy's" shroud was
one of the tilings that this noble amy took away with them. She was an
old African - a "king's daughter", of course, in her native land. She
was said to be over a hundred years old, and had her shroud laid up
in her "chist" for many years. A rapacious blue-coat dragged it out,
put it on, danced around in it, to the infinite horror of the negroes,
and in s^ite of their entreaties, carried it away*
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